Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana has issued a cease and desist letter against Thuja Capital CEO Mthunzi Mdwaba over R500 million bribery claims.
This comes after Mdwaba accused Godongwana, Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande, Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi, and ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula of having sent intermediaries to get him to pay them R500m in “gate fees” in a R5 billion UIF jobs scheme.
Mdwaba made these damning allegations in a “Sunday World” article published at the weekend.
Godongwana, through his lawyers, Rudolph Baloyi Incorporated, has given Mdwaba seven days to retract his statement.
“During a television interview on 7 November 2023 on Newzroom Afrika with Mr Xolani Mngambi, you made certain false, malicious and defamatory statements against our client. You stated that our client had given permission for a criminal scheme in which a bribe of R500 million was solicited from you by three members of Cabinet and the secretary-general of the ANC.
“The allegation is false and defamatory. It diminishes the standing and reputation of our client and suggests that he is corrupt, a person of low morals and is prepared to sacrifice a Cabinet responsibility for personal benefit,” the lawyers said.
Mdwaba is accused of intentionally defaming Godongwana and some of the ministers mentioned in his public outbursts, providing no proof of his allegations against them.
“For the record, our client knows nothing about the matter, of which you were interviewed… He never sent anyone to you to solicit a bribe. These are facts you were aware of or could have ascertained easily with our client before you made the false and defamatory allegations against him,” reads the letter.
Godongwana, through his lawyers, said he had been forced to ask Mdwaba to publicly retract his utterances or face legal consequences.
“You are now required to retract the statements made concerning our client within seven days of receipt of this letter. You are also required to publicly apologise to our client for recklessly making the false accusations against him. If you do not do so, our client will institute legal proceedings against you without further notice,” the lawyers said.
Godongwana’s demands follow hot on the heels of a charge of crimen injuria which was laid by ANC secretary-general Mbalula at the Sandton police station on Thursday morning.
Mbalula said he was not involved in a bribery scandal, as alleged by Mdwaba, and indicated that issuing a statement would not be enough as the allegations against him and the ministers were too serious. For this reason he was going the legal route.
“I have opened a case of crimen injuria against Mdwaba today because I want to make a clear statement on behalf of my family and the African National Congress,” he said. “In the South African political parlance, it has become too easy to soil one another with the corruption tag. Corruption eats away at the very important gains of democracy, it defers the dreams of the entire nation, black and white.”
While Nxesi, Godongwana and Mbalula have come out publicly to defend themselves against the bribery claims, Nzimande tersely dismissed Mdwaba’s allegations.
“Minister Nzimande dismisses these allegations with the contempt it serves. The minister’s rights are reserved in this regard,” Nzimande’s spokesperson, Ishmael Mnisi, said on Wednesday.
Responding to The Star on Thursday, Mdwaba said he has been receiving many messages of support from young South Africans who identify with his current situation following a cease and desist letter from finance minister Enoch Godongwana and crimen injuria charges laid against him by ANC secretary general, Fikile Mabalula.
“Mr Mbalula is very consistent in being a colourful and drama-driven personality. He is entitled to do whatever lives him. I shall also do what I have to do... I found Mr Godongwana’s letter to be quite interesting in its content. Finally, I stand by my views,” he said.
“ We have a valid agreement that was preceded by rigorous and robust processes and a stress-testing along the way. We shall have our contract implemented so we can create the over 700 000 jobs we have promised,” he said.